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World News

UK to host global religious freedom summit next summer

by Heather Preston

The international conference for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) is to be hosted in London next summer.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will bring together governments and faith leaders from across the globe next July, to promote respect between different religious and non-religious communities.

The Foreign Secretary has stated that the issue of religious freedom is a key part of the UK's foreign policy and development agenda and she expects the summit to help "shape the network of liberty the UK, as a fierce champion of freedom, is building around the world."

Chair of the UK FoRB forum, Mervyn Thomas, tells Premier ministers will be discussing how they can further the rights of religious freedom around the world while NGO's will also be gathering as part of the 'FoRB fringe'.

"Around 100 NGO's who have an interest in FoRB will be involved in organising fringe events to talk about the issues of FoRB and more importantly how we can address these issues for change."

He tells Premier that the global prioritisation of religious freedom or belief is vital in the fight against Christian persecution.

"The way to alleviate Christian persecution is to promote freedom of religion or belief for all faiths. Only if we do it through this lens can we really hope to see true freedom for Christians around the world.

"We want to see FoRB at the heart of foreign policy, it is only when we see many countries doing this that we will see change in countries." 

In 2019 the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, urged the UK government to step up its global leadership on protecting religious minorities in his review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) support for persecuted Christians.

The UK became a co-founding member of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance in February 2020. The network - which is committed to advancing freedom of religion or belief around the world has since grown its membership to 33 countries.

In May 2021, the UK brought the first inclusion of FoRB issues before G7 foreign and development ministers who are responsible for tackling foreign policy and international development challenges.

Fiona Bruce MP, UK Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) has welcomed the announcement of the upcoming conference as a "pivotal opportunity to engage with our international partners to ensure that the rights of all individuals, regardless of their religion or belief, are fully protected and respected, no matter where they are in the world, without fear of prejudice or persecution."

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